Zinc alloy is one of the commonest jewelry materials, and for good reason too; zinc alloy jewelry doesn’t cost so much, they always make great jewelry pieces, and it takes a lot of time before it tarnishes.
Does Zinc Alloy Jewelry Tarnish or Change Color? Zinc alloy jewelry, like most pieces of jewelry, does tarnish and change color, though it takes a long while for zinc to do either.
We will be discussing this further and also the reasons behind it.
Does Zinc Alloy Jewelry Tarnish?
Zinc alloy is an alloy of a lot of elements, but for the purpose of jewelry, it has women forms in brass and nickel silver.
Brass is common of the two, and it is made from copper and zinc. Nickel silver is made from nickel, copper, and zinc.
Now, the fact that zinc alloy is made from a lot of metals that tarnish on their own also means that the zinc alloy will also tarnish. So, zinc alloy jewelry does tarnish, but it doesn’t do so easily. Zinc is a really heavy metal, so when it is alloyed with other metals, the corrosion resistance of the resultant alloy is very high.
For this reason, it is very durable, and there is a chemical reaction to thank for this; when zinc is exposed to the air, there is a chemical reaction in which the carbon dioxide part of the air combines with zinc to form a protective layer on the jewelry.
This protective layer that has been formed prevents any more reactions from occurring with any other element and zinc, thus enhancing the durability.
There are a few reasons why zinc alloy tarnishes. They are:-
1. Dents and scratches
There is an African proverb that says ‘when the wall cracks, lizards make a home in it.’ When you’re handling zinc alloy jewelry, it pays to be very careful.
The reason is that if the material is scratched or dented, (though it is not easy to scratch the material) then the resulting chinks in will allow moisture in.
Not just moisture actually, but also cleaning agents and air, and these foreign bodies will only serve to compromise the integrity of your zinc alloy jewelry.
2. Reaction with Nonmetallic Compounds
Nonmetallic compounds like sulfur dioxide and hydrogen oxide can react with your zinc alloy jewelry, and this would mean tarnishing for jewelry pieces.
Does Zinc Alloy Jewelry Change Color?
In a short answer, yes. Zinc alloy jewelry does change color.
Like we mentioned earlier, zinc alloy has two main forms when it comes to jewelry; brass and nickel silver. Brass, for example, has a zinc content of about 30%, and its copper content is about 70%.
Now, brass will change color when exposed to water or air, especially if the jewelry piece has scratches and dents. Why? Oxygen. The oxygen content in water or air will combine with the brass and cause oxidation.
The resultant effect is that your jewelry might look greenish, bluish or brown. And yes, your brass jewelry can and probably would still change color even if you take care of your jewelry.
Another cause of zinc alloy jewelry changing color is the reactions between the pieces of jewelry and the products used on your skin. Now, we said earlier that a reaction between your zinc alloy jewelry and carbon dioxide will create a protective film over your jewelry. That is true.
But it is also true that due to the degree of use of your zinc alloy jewelry, in conjunction with the products used and the probability that your jewelry has been scratched (maybe because you used an abrasive cleaning agent), your jewelry can change color.
The other cause of color change is corrosion from which results from the exposure of the alloy to water. Corrosion causes the pinkish or reddish splotches on jewelry.
Does Zinc Alloy Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green?
Yes. This is especially the case for zinc alloy jewelry that has copper content in it.
The reason? Copper is a notorious culprit when it comes to oxidation, and the resulting oxidation will make the metal turn green. When you wear the metal, for example, zinc alloy rings, the oxidation affects your hand and turns it green.
Now, this green discoloration is often not harmful to you, except if you have an allergy to copper or metals in general. If this is the case, wash the affect areas of your skin, using mild soap and a soft sponge. Moisturize the area thoroughly too, and in no time, the discoloration will disappear.
This doesn’t mean in any way that zinc alloy is unsafe for use as jewelry. Yes, sometimes zinc alloy does contain lead and/or nickel, both of which are very undesirable when it comes to human consumption; lead for one is a neurotoxin that is especially harmful to children, and nickel is a metal that is known to react badly with human skin.
But for jewelry, manufacturers do not use zinc alloys with lead or nickel, so it’s safe to use jewelry made from brass.
How to keep Zinc Alloy from Tarnishing
For this, there are two main enemies you have to watch out for; air and water.
To ensure your zinc alloy doesn’t tarnish, make sure you keep it away from water or wet places. Remember that we explained earlier that the oxygen from water can react with your zinc alloy jewelry and cause oxidization, which would then lead to discoloration.
Also, it is very important that you keep your zinc alloy jewelry away from the air when you’re not using it. Store the jewelry pieces in airtight containers to prevent any reaction with the oxygen in the air.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
Zinc alloy jewelry is inexpensive but looks expensive, and this is a combination that generally makes you want to get jewelry pieces made with this alloy.
Do not forget, however, that this alloy can still tarnish if care is not taken, so ensure that your jewelry pieces are protected from air and water because of the danger of oxidation.